The Facebook ‘Planking’ Craze and Why You Too Could Die From It

Over the last few years, the lexicon of social media has implanted itself in everyday life, invading dictionaries of the Oxford-English caliber, popping up in politics, and making serious people sound simply silly. From tweets and pokes to widgets and wikis, the social media landscape that has developed terms and phrases like photobombing and crowdsourcing has created yet another gem: planking.

It would seem that this new though hardly brilliant activity has had a genesis in Australia, and the Aussies are now making worldwide news by planking. The concept is incredibly simple, while always silly, often hilarious, and occasionally fatal. In order to plank, one lay prone while another person captures the prostrate position in order to post to Facebook. The amusement and danger arrive as people try to come up with creative ways to be horizontal. Your head is down, and your arms are at your side, and you wait until the moment is catalogued for the world to see.

A 20-year old man who fell seven stories from a high rise in Brisbane Australia, and died, is believed to have been planking. “Police fear that as planking gains popularity there may be more injuries and potentially further deaths,” said Deputy Commissioner Ross Barnett of the Queensland police. “The potential for disaster increases as more and more risks are taken to get the ultimate photo,” read a statement from the police.

This deceased youth, like so many plankers, strive to come up with creative ways to lay, be it in water, atop a sign, or as it would seem in this case, the ledge of a high rise. According to the New York Post, another 20-year old Australian man was arrested last week after planking on a police car.

Even the Prime Minister of Australia weighed in, saying the tragic event should serve as a warning for others. Several businesses around Australia have also engaged in the practice as a form of promotion, but one local business has cancelled a planking competition in the wake of the youth’s death.  Aussie pop icons The Veronicas, (Brisbane’s version of the Jonas Brothers?) condemned the urban activity via Facebook, which of course led to unintelligible backlash and criticism.

Nearly 200,000 ‘like’ the group, Planking Australia, whose description is only the two capitalized words, be safe. Perusing through pictures, it’s hard not to laugh at this people; there are certainly hilarious photos, some of the dumb variety, while others truly are clever and awe-inspiring. The perhaps official planking Facebook page, founded in 2009, has nearly 146,000 likes and lists six rules for planking, which is at least five or six too many. “Every Plank that is captured must be named,” is a classic rule and rounds out the list, following a note that advises safety.

The craze, a very apt term when considering the consequences, seems to be invading other countries too, including much of Europe. In time it may make its way across the Atlantic to North America, a possibility that seems all the more likely after making the news stateside with headlines that include the words, ‘Facebook,’ and ‘death.’

So, do you plank?